How Remote Work is Influencing Financial Recruiting and Retention Strategies

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Over the past few years, we have learned that we are entirely more adaptable than we ever thought possible. We’ve learned that we can not only survive, but actually thrive in extreme disruption. And much of that adaptation and success is based on the ability to work remotely.  

Today, remote work has become a priority for most employees … in some respect. In fact, in the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half, 75% of workers said they wanted to work at least part of the time remotely, and 34% said they would quit a company that didn’t allow remote work.  And those who work in finance or accounting departments are no exception to these numbers. 

While our new remote or hybrid workforce has been around for two years now, it is no longer about logistical prowess to achieve social distancing in a global pandemic. Rather, it’s about the reprioritization among us all that includes increased flexibility and enhanced employee experiences. And while these are incredible benefits for candidates and employees, CFOs and other leaders aren’t lacking in advantages either – namely, a massive widening of the talent pool.  

In the same survey, 35% of finance and accounting leaders said they expanded their searches geographically to find the right candidates. Having employees across time zones also leads to the ancillary benefits of nearly automatically increasing the organization’s customer service, while helping with work-life balance at the same time. Consider an employee on the east coast who no longer has to solve a problem at 7:00 pm because they have a west-coast colleague who can easily take care of it within business hours.  

Realizing our remote world is not going anywhere, CFOs are now considering how to revamp their recruiting and retention strategies around it. It’s no secret that competition is fierce. To successfully recruit top talent and keep them, they need to have structured strategies that have been adjusted to our new realities.  

When recruiting for finance or accounting positions, there are, of course, the “typical” qualifications and skills needed – certain degrees and designations, attention to detail, accuracy, confidentiality, ambition, embracing continuous learning, and problem-solving skills. That’s not changing. But now, more recruiting efforts are shifting to look not merely at the skills for the specific position or the necessary education and certifications, but the skills needed to work in a remote environment successfully.  

To work remotely, CFOs need to look for candidates who can exhibit discipline, initiative, and the following abilities to:  

  • stay focused,  
  • be a self-starter,  
  • work well without supervision, and  
  • work well under pressure.  

Additionally, by the very nature of remote work, they need to have more advanced technological skills or, at a minimum, be willing to learn them quickly.  

So much of retention is based on organizational culture – whether we are in-office or remote. And the flip side of the flexibility advantage that remote work provides to employees is isolation, especially when some employees are in the office and others are not. Remote workers could feel less appreciated or valued, or think that they will be passed over for opportunities since they are not directly in front of their leaders. They can also start to feel detached from their work and those with whom they work. 

To ensure the organization has a people-first culture, these fears (real or perceived) must be minimized. Leaders should ensure remote workers are getting the time and attention needed – that they are acknowledged, promoted when justified, and provided equal opportunities to training, continuous learning, and resources, including access to the financial tools needed to do their jobs efficiently. Proactively sharing information, providing peer mentoring or coaching, and focusing on clear, timely communication, with opportunities for feedback are other helpful ways to keep them involved. Essentially, it comes down to the human connection, even when you aren’t physically together. Remember, technology is great, but alone, it will not build a culture your employees won’t want to leave.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to using the right strategies to keep your company running efficiently. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Time Management in the Hybrid Workforce

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Time management is one of the most useful, yet often most difficult, skills a CEO can master. There is arguably no other role in corporate America with more functions, time restrictions, pressure, and distractions. Add to that the transitions and contingencies associated with a global pandemic, and time management feels like more of a conundrum than a skill. 

Through the past eighteen months, CEOs have had to learn the art of leading remotely, and found that doing so has its own unique time management issues. CEOs learned to use new communication tools, change meeting formats, and spend time inspiring teams from afar. Now, many are going back into the office for a new hybrid workforce model. In this next transition, CEOs shouldn’t forget all that they knew from pre-pandemic time management, but they should also incorporate what they’ve learned and what worked well with virtual time management.  

Fundamentally, the issue is that while our virtual world saved businesses during a time when we could not head to the office, it also opened us up to, at a minimum, the perception of 24/7 availability. Historically, many CEOs struggled with boundaries and time management because they were trying to accomplish more than was physically possible in a 24-hour period. However, with virtual accessibility, the problem has been exacerbated. And now solutions for a hybrid model must be developed.  

While not everyone is on the same page about the continuation of remote work (a Reuters article noted what JPMorgan Chase & Co’s chief executive said about a hybrid model: “It doesn’t work for those who want to hustle. It doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for culture.”), many CEOs are accepting a hybrid model. Essential to this model though is appropriate time management, taking what was learned and applying it to this new reality. 

Time Management Tips 

At some point, we’ve all likely heard the time management tips for CEOs and other leaders to increase efficiency and productivity. But this time of transition begs the question—How many of those tips will remain the same in a hybrid model? Many of them will, with some added rigidity, but there will be a few nuances.  

  • Delegate or shorten meetings. A report tracking CEO time management showed that 72% of a CEO’s average 62.5-hour work week was spent in meetings, leaving little time for self-development or for developing strategy. Limiting your presence in meetings, whether face-to-face or virtual, creates space and time to focus on what is necessary.  

  • Set more rigid boundaries. Block that newfound time from attending fewer meetings and consistently use it for activities that require more high-level thinking, including strategic development. Fiercely protect that time as if you were meeting with your top revenue-producing client. 

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. While a crucial key to time management, delegation has been an issue for many CEOs long before the pandemic (and likely will be one long after). Too many CEOs spend too much time on operational functions, or even on micromanaging. Both everyday operational tasks and the management of those tasks must be delegated to others on your team. Remember, you hired them for a reason—trust that they can handle it.  

  • Prioritize. Use the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) when you prioritize your tasks and activities. For those unfamiliar with the Pareto Principle, it states that for most events, about 80% of the results comes from 20% of the effort. You can use this methodology to prioritize what brings about the highest ROI. 
    • In your prioritization, keep in mind the importance of high-quality relationships and that some face-to-face interaction, not just with partners or clients, but with subordinates and team members, helps to develop those relationships.  

  • Reduce participants in your meetings. With virtual meetings, we lost geographical restrictions. As a result, we became accustomed to inviting everyone to meetings, whether they were really needed or not. But doing so tends to lead to increased time in the meeting, and overall decreased efficiency. On the other hand, smaller groups allow for more participation and honesty, getting more accomplished in a shorter amount of time.  
    • Only those needed for a particular strategy and/or on a specific team should be included in meetings. 

The Benefits of Time Management for CEOs 

Effectively managing your time management helps you prioritize better and avoid getting stuck in the distractions and details that plague CEOs all day long. You are less overwhelmed and have a clearer vision about what you truly need to do to move the needle. And ensuring you are spending your time on those high-level tasks is the best way to ensure productivity for the organization. Additionally, when you master your own time, can better determine where others are having difficulties with their own. 

Ultimately, a new approach to time management is needed that is flexible enough to embrace a hybrid work model. Not everything will be the same or go back to “normal.” As always, we must evolve along with our circumstances. And we do that by taking what we’ve learned and working it into our new strategies. As CEOs, it’s imperative to be strategic about not only the direction of the organization, but also about the effective utilization of your time. Remember, if you don’t manage your time, your time will manage you. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience in working with CEOs on time management and other leadership functions in the hybrid workforce model. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.